We live in Nashville. Our families do not. At Passover, we vie with all sorts of other events and obligations and complications to get family here for seder. Usually, we must place our order for Bubbe at least a year in advance. Bubbe, now a widow and free agent, triangulates amongst Nashville, Philly, and New York for her seders. Although we placed our order for Pesach 2009 early enough, health issues cropped up that made this much-anticipated visit impractical. So, we had to go another year without Bubbe’s famous Yemenite rendition of the Hallel, and without Bubbe’s table-slapping, wine-glass-spilling gusto throughout the whole, never-long-enough-for-Bubbe evening.
She spent seder #1 with the Philly mishpacha, just a short drive away from her Center City high-rise. For seder #2, we figured she would settle down to a solo bowl of matzah ball soup, a few leftovers, the Maxwell House Hagaddah and a phone call to hear our Toddler do the Mah Nishtana. But Bubbe, ever game for the next new thing, and ever eager to be wherever the noise and conversation are, had other plans. When we phoned her in Philly late on the second night, she was deep in the middle of a seder— in New York. “Listen!” she hollered, “I’m on Skype! Isn’t it wonderful?” She held the phone up to her Dell screen, and we could hear snatches of what she was watching: a noisy, happy seder with her kids and grandkids and guests, about a hundred miles away. “Isn’t it a miracle? Technology! I’m doing the whole thing! I can see and hear the whole thing!”
I had been worried she would be disappointed that the Toddler was already in bed, and could not sing the Four Questions to her. But instead, she was engrossed in a full-blown seder via the internet. I cannot call it a virtual seder, for a real seder was actually unfolding, and as the whole family knows, the particular hosts of this seder make sure it is real. The New York contingent (headed by a Conservative Rabbi plus a Balabusta/Physician) always throws an all-out, kosher to the bone, sing-every-song, read-every-word, feast of a seder. Bubbe was probably up way past our own bedtime, slapping her computer desk in time to the songs, disturbing the neighbors, measuring out her four cups of concord grape, her spirit spinning in and out of seders present and seders past. Not bad for an 80 year-old lady, yes?
Not bad for anyone, actually, but we could all take a leaf out of Bubbe’s good book: she never stops learning, looking, doing, experimenting, hollering, interrupting, grabbing at life. She likes to wear a lapel pin that reads: “Question Authority.” Her radar is always set to spot the next Discrepant Event: an opportunity to demand we must “infer” our way through some sort of anomalous data. (I have heard her demand the Toddler to “infer” whilst on her knee with Go, Dog, Go!. No one is immune from her injunction to Learn.) A Professor Emerita, she’s still so active I get tired just thinking about what all she gets into as a student, teacher, tour guide, consultant, shaker-up-of-things-in-general, and family matriarch. So, the matriarch’s unexpected choice of seder venue Thursday night should not have surprised us that much. A Skype Seder is just so Bubbe.
I keep remembering a New Yorker cartoon my husband had on the fridge for years: it showed a cow jumping over the moon, watched by a bull and calf below: “Son, your mother is a remarkable woman.” Yes, she certainly is.